Defendant ordered to pay €65,000 in Facebook defamation case
At last week’s sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Court James Woods was awarded €65,000 damages plus legal costs after he brought a defamation case against Colm Mulvey, 36 Hillcrest Grove, Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim.
Barrister for the plaintiff, Keith O’Grady said the case was brought following a publication on the Facebook page ‘Darts in Ireland’ by the defendant on August 22, 2016.
Giving background to the case Mr O’Grady explained, “The plaintiff (Mr Woods who is originally from Boyle and now living in Gurteen) is a former National Darts executive member and former Secretary of Roscommon County Darts. At the time of the offence he was the secretary of the Sligo League.”
Mr O’Grady added, “Having become aware of what was said about him, he contacted his solicitor.”
Mr O’Grady said, “Mr Mulvey has not appeared in court this morning for the call over of the list or at any time in court. There was a phone call today explaining his father-in-law was unwell and he couldn’t be in court.”
The court heard Mr Mulvey accepted he had defamed Mr Woods in October 2016.
Under questioning from Mr O’Grady, Mr Woods was asked about the message that was written about him in relation to money that had gone missing in the 1980s and 90s.
The message written by Mr Mulvey stated “You should look closer to home in the 80s and 90s when someone from Boyle was the Chairman.”
When asked if he knew who that message referred to, Mr Woods replied, “No, I was involved from the late 90s.”
Mr Woods was then asked about the missing money to which he replied, “I don’t know a whole pile. I know money had disappeared from an account. I don’t know who did it. I went into work and colleagues asked me what was going on. They asked me how much I had stolen. Management were asking me if there was a criminal investigation as I wouldn’t be able to work in the hospital. It nearly destroyed me.”
Mr Woods added, “I relinquished my position in Sligo because people were looking down their nose and saying ‘where is the money gone.’ I can categorically say I don’t know anything.”
Mr Woods was asked if he felt having the details of this case published would help him to which he replied, “I want to clear my name primarily.”
Mr Woods referred to an apology he received explaining, “He (Mr Mulvey) sent my solicitor an apology. He was given ‘x’ amount of days to publish it on that (Facebook) site and he didn’t.”
The court heard when the time elapsed and Mr Mulvey had not published the apology on Facebook, Mr Woods received the go-ahead from his solicitor to publish the apology himself.
Later in the court, details of the apology were read in which Mr Mulvey said he was “totally ashamed,” and could “only imagine the devastation caused.” The apology also saw Mr Mulvey acknowledge he had “no personal grievances or gripe,” and offered his “deepest apologies.”
Explaining his reason for wanting the apology to be made public, Mr Woods said, “I travel to darts events all over the country. I didn’t want people thinking I was responsible for money going missing.”
Outlining some of the fundraising events he has been involved in Mr Woods noted, “Down the years I have raised a hell of a lot for charity through darts. My dad died in 2015 and I tried to raise as much as I could for the Mayo/Roscommon Hospice. In 2016 I had nearly 100 throwers, after this came out it was down to 48 throwers in 2017.”
When asked if he felt the reduction in competitors was as a result of the comments made about him, Mr Woods replied, “Very much so.”
When asked if there had been a negative impact on his involvement in darts or his social life Mr Woods answered, “I don’t have a social life or a darts life any more. They ring me when they are very stuck.”
Evidence in the case was also given by John Forde, President of the South Sligo Darts League who said he has known Mr Woods for 18-20 years.
When asked about the allegations made about Mr Woods, Mr Forde replied, “I saw it on the internet.”
He was asked if he was aware of what happened the missing money. Mr Forde answered, “I was in England, I don’t know.”
When asked how he reacted having read the Facebook post Mr Forde replied, “I questioned him and he said he had nothing to do with it. People questioned me ‘is it true’ and I said ‘don’t be daft.’”
When asked if he believed Mr Woods’ reputation had been damaged Mr Forde replied, “It has, I’m certain. I’d say by the way they were talking a lot of them did believe it. He wouldn’t touch a halfpenny.”
Having heard the evidence in the case Judge John Aylmer remarked, “It is clear from the words published on Facebook in August 2016 that the plaintiff is or was a thief. That the plaintiff had ulterior motives, had committed a criminal offence and is a person that should not be allowed to hold office.”
Judge Aylmer referred to the letter of apology and took note of the fact that the plaintiff had to publish the apology himself saying, “It is understandable he felt people were talking about him. It is understandable this had a devastating emotional effect on him.”
Awarding damages of €65,000 plus legal costs Judge Aylmer added, “It was a particularly nasty defamation of Mr Woods with pretty devastating effects for him.”